The Darwin Initiative Blog

Insights and personal musings from the world of biodiversity conservation and development. For more info on the Darwin Initiative see https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/the-darwin-initiative


Leave a comment

Unexpected Achievements: Adaptation and Innovation

This blog series will focus on several Darwin Initiative projects that have thrived in the face of challenges, resulting in a number of unexpected achievements. Some projects were pleasantly surprised when they were able to accomplish more than they set out to do, whereas others soon realised that adapting their approach based on changes on the ground could help them to their changing environments was the best way forward.

The first blog will feature two groups of local people living on the edge of Protected Areas in Cameroon and Uganda, and follow their quest to secure their own livelihoods through the use of innovative approaches. Living next to a National Park may sound idealistic, however it has had several disadvantages for those on the outskirts of the Bwindi National Park, Uganda and the Dja Faunal Reserve, Cameroon. Due to the strict enforcement surrounding land usage and species conservation both villages had to embrace new methods to gain income and ensure food security.

 Life jackets improve livelihoods of communities in Cameroon

The local people living within the buffer zone of the Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon have always had livelihoods built on hunting, fishing, and forest clearance for crop-growing that are now no longer possible because of the need to protect the natural spaces and the wildlife the Reserve contains. It is amazing to find just how creative and adaptable human beings can be when faced with such challenges.

This means that these people will be forced to find new sources of protein such as meat or fish and find a new means of paying for this food. People who had never focused on fishing before were now keen to try out the new fishing gear. The creation of a sustainable fishing zone within the nearby Dja River was proposed so that the villagers could continue to catch fish as the numbers doubled and tripled with time.

With no local lifebuoy shop and the average cost of a life jacket being far too overpriced for someone who earns 20,000 cfa (£24) per month the villagers had to get creative.

Cameroon 24-005 Threading nylon rope through the bottles and bag, Credit - PGS, FCTV, TF-RD, AWF

Assembling a life jacket with nylon rope, bottles and a bag, Credit – PGS, FCTV, TF-RD, AWF

Through the support of the Darwin team the villagers were able to come up with an innovative recipe for making a life jacket using bits and pieces of thrown away rubbish, boat rope and a fair degree of trial and error.

Armed now with new gear, training and having created their own safety equipment, many more people in the villages are turning to fishing rather than illegal hunting. The fish can be eaten locally or even taken to market to be sold.

Cameroon 24-005 End result fully cycled life jacket from the 'boucle du nord', Credit - PGS, FCTV, TF-RD, AWF

Modelling the end product – a fully cycled life jacket, Credit – PGS, FCTV, TF-RD, AWF

It’s a big success for the people (and the project) at this stage and wouldn’t have been possible if the villagers hadn’t invented new ways of ensuring safety on the river.

Unexpected achievements whilst boosting local economic development through pro-poor gorilla tourism

In Bwindi National Park, tourists pay $600 for a permit to track gorillas, however the people living on the edges receive little to no benefit. With very few conservation jobs available to local people coupled with low levels of skill development the result has been low quality handicrafts and community-based enterprises that have attracted limited sales amongst tourists. This has strained the relationships between local people, the park authority and tourism providers and poaching, snaring and other forms of illegal resource use are prevalent.

The project over the last two years has been investing in local people’s skills to produce quality tourism products and services that tourists, tour operators and lodge managers want to buy and hence generate viable livelihoods. The project team have worked with 14 small enterprises and trained over 300 local people in basket weaving, guiding, carving, horticulture and apiculture. Through the use of a ‘forest friendly’ badge, sales have gone through the roof.

Uganda 23-023 Tina from Change a Life Bwindi, displaying baskets made by women in her cooperative, Credit - Dilys Roe

Tina from Change a Life Bwindi displaying baskets made by women in her cooperative, Credit – Dilys Roe

The above outcomes were what the project team were hoping to achieve, however there were a couple of surprise outcomes that they hadn’t planned for. The sales from weaving have been so good that the cooperative members were able to equip their homes with solar lights. A commercial honey producer called Golden Bees has opened a new honey shop in the south of the park selling honey produced by former poachers, after having been so impressed with the quality of the product on offer.

Locals and lodges alike are enjoying the locally produced fruit and vegetables now that the range, quality and reliability of supply has improved. To cap this series of unexpected achievements the team recently learnt that the project has been shortlisted for a World Responsible Tourism Award!

 

For more information on the Antwerp Zoo Centre for Research & Conservation Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (RZSA) project 24-005 please click here and to find out more about IIED project 23-032 click here, or read the full articles in our November 2018 Newsletter

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Building on success: insights from a cluster of Darwin Initiative projects in Uganda

The Darwin Initiative has provided funding to projects in Uganda since its very first round of funding 25 years ago. In its opening year, the Darwin Initiative funded three projects in Uganda:

In celebration of the Darwin Initiative’s 25th anniversary and its long and successful history in Uganda, in this blog we hear from three members of the Darwin community (E.J. Milner-Gulland, Dilys Roe and Julia Baker) who have worked together on five Darwin supported projects over the past five years.

Uganda is a country with remarkable natural beauty, important conservation value, a dynamic cadre of conservation professionals who are keen to engage with international best practice, and continuing challenges of poverty, conflict and lack of capacity and infrastructure.

The three of us have been fortunate to work closely together on five Darwin-funded projects in Uganda since 2012. These projects illustrate the value of having overlapping teams carrying out complementary projects, the benefits that can be gained from building on the achievements of one project to provide a springboard for further projects, and of long-term engagement and investment in a country, particularly in building in-country capacity for conservation.

The Biodiversity Team at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has worked in Uganda since 2010. Early on, the need for a network of conservation professionals was identified in order to share experiences, best practice and international lessons, particularly on understanding the complex linkages between poverty and environment. Thus, the Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (U-PCLG) was born, funded by the Arcus Foundation.

Uganda Batwa community on edge of Bwindi National Park, Credit - Dilys Roe

Batwa community on edge of Bwindi National Park, Credit: Dilys Roe

U-PCLG was the ideal vehicle to translate research findings into real-world policy and action. As the best way to learn is by doing, a case study problem was identified, research done to understand the problem, and then the U-PCLG was supported to advocate for policy change, using a range of approaches including policy briefs, meetings and workshops. This idea was taken up and funded by the Darwin Initiative, in our first project Research to Policy – Building Capacity for Conservation Through Poverty Alleviation, which started in April 2012. The project took wildlife crime in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as the case study, and chalked up notable success in changing park-level policies, including an increase in the share of income from gorilla tracking permits that is given back to local communities. It also saw the nascent U-PCLG transformed into an active and empowered group, and resulted in a spin-off project, funded by the Arcus Foundation, to evaluate the tourism revenue sharing scheme at Bwindi.

With the learning and partnerships gained from the Bwindi project, we submitted a proposal to Darwin with in-country partners the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). This extended our approach to tackling wildlife crime to Uganda’s largest and oldest national parks, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls, by using cutting-edge research to understand the motivations of natural resource users. Our proposal was transferred to the newly-instituted sister grant scheme to Darwin, the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, and became the Building Capacity for Pro-Poor Responses to Wildlife Crime in Uganda. Most of our final year of this project involved working with park staff to develop feasible action plans to change the way wildlife crime is tackled, from law enforcement to a community-engagement approach. Following calls from UWA for support to implement these plans, a new IWT Challenge Fund project is now underway to build UWA’s capacity in community engagement approaches to tackling wildlife crime.

Whilst implementing these projects, we worked with our partners to identify other critical issues for supporting poverty alleviation in Uganda while conserving nature. New projects addressing these issues supported by Darwin include supporting Uganda’s National Environmental Management Authority to understand the impacts of a biodiversity offset for a large hydropower dam on people and wildlife, and improve Uganda’s ability to implement effective offsets. This builds on another IIED-led Darwin project that supported Uganda and other African countries to mainstream biodiversity in national and sectoral development policy. Meanwhile at Bwindi we have begun working with private sector professionals to improve the quality of local tourism products and services in order to increase local spending by gorilla tourists, linking back to the original Bwindi project that showed local people resent gorilla conservation because they believe they do not receive a fair share of tourism benefits.

Uganda gorilla Credit Dilys Roe

Gorilla, Credit: Dilys Roe

We are also evaluating the conservation impact of a public health intervention at Bwindi. This project is notable because it is one of the few projects in the Darwin Initiative’s portfolio to be led by a developing country NGO (Conservation Through Public Health, CTPH), rather than an international partner. This was made possible by IIED and Oxford University working with CTPH to build their capacity in proposal writing and project implementation, leading to success in accessing Darwin funding. During our last visit to Uganda we tried to spread this support further by training U-PCLG members on applying for Darwin funding. One of the greatest benefits from Darwin’s support has been to boost the careers and personal development of Ugandan conservation professionals involved with the projects.

We are very grateful to the Darwin Initiative for their support, and hope that this taster gives an idea of the added value of supporting a network of interlinked projects, in terms of continuity, learning, mutual support and capacity-building.

This article, and many others celebrating 25 years of the Darwin Initiative, can be found in our August Newsletter.


Leave a comment

New Darwin Projects – Round 22 – Part 1

The results of the 22nd round of Darwin Initiative funding has just been announced, and we are happy to introduce this year’s 34 new Darwin Main projects 1 Fellowship and 6 Scoping Awards.

Yet again, Darwin is funding a fascinating range of projects, each of which uses different but integrated approaches in order to address both poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation. This is something Darwin projects excel at, as highlighted in a recent information note – “Understanding Poverty and Biodiversity Links”. Below, and over the next couple of blogs, I will explore just a small number of new projects and the different approaches they plan to use.

Alternative livelihoods and micro-finance schemes

23-015Guinea pigs as guinea pigs, reducing bushmeat hunting while improving communities wellbeing” is a new Wildlife Conservation Society project, which will work near the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP) in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although one of the most biodiversity rich protected areas in Africa, and home to iconic and highly threatened species such as Grauer’s gorilla – a species endemic to mountainous forests in eastern DRC – bushmeat hunting around KBNP is a very serious threat to park’s wildlife.

Grauer's gorilla, KBNP DRC Joe McKenna creative commons 2.0 licence

Grauer’s gorilla, KBNP DRC, Credit – Joe McKenna via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Regional insecurity and historical war mean that rural communities in DRC do not have sufficient access to agricultural or livestock production, leading to often severe cases of malnutrition. Bushmeat hunting often provides a much-needed source of protein. This project’s goal is to reduce the pressures of bushmeat hunting whilst simultaneously increasing the quality of the rural poor living near KBNP.

It aims to do this by working with community members to raise awareness of biodiversity values, and provide access to micro-credit schemes and training in cavy, or guinea pig, husbandry. Although not perhaps to the appetite of the British public, cavy husbandry is an ideal livelihood option for poor households in this area as it has low start-up and upkeep costs, and guinea pigs can provide much need protein in deficient diets, as well as attracting high market prices. In doing so, this project aims to directly impact 600 poor households in rural DRC.

Vente de cobaye au marché de Mugogo 2

Grauer’s gorilla, KBNP DRC, Credit – Joe McKenna via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Tackling illegal wildlife trade and trafficking

A previous Darwin blog touched on the important differences between legal and illegal wildlife trade, and highlighted that as well as being a criminal industry worth billions of pounds, illegal wildlife trade also damages local communities and undermines sustainable development and the security of local communities.

A new ZSL project 23-001Strengthening Cameroon’s capacity to monitor and reduce illegal wildlife trafficking” aims to address Cameroon’s status as an IWT hub. The country currently acts as both a source of illegally poached wildlife as well as a transit route for trafficked wildlife from Central African Republic, Congo and Gabon. Project interventions intend to monitor trade routes, improve site-based protection and increase enforcement capacity using an integrated approach. As a result, enforcement agencies will be better able to apply wildlife laws and increase protection of species such as the black-bellied, white-bellied and giant pangolins. In addition the project hopes to help Cameroon meet its international commitments and empower communities by strengthening ownership of their natural resources.